Kalari

Kalari


Kalari (कलाड़ी or کلاڑی) – “mozerella cheese of Kashmir”, the taste of which is still fresh on my palette from the servings made by my mother during my upbringing at Gorakhpur, a place far away from Kashmir. This special cheese is indigenous to Kashmir region of India and Pakistan. Since my ancestors belonged to Muzaffarabad, a region now in the Kashmir region under Paksitan territory, Kalari was a part of their diet. Our family having relocated to Gorakhpur at the time of partition of India in 1947, though deprived of Kalari, found ways to make it at home.


Kalari is prepared by putting this special cheese pancake on a hot pan, covered with a bowl and allowed to release its fat. After some time the bowl is lifted and Kalari is flipped over and covered again. By the time it is fried fully, it forms a brownish crispy layer outside and soft, creamy, gooey cheese in the inside, just like melted mozerella on a pizza crust.


Fond memories of Kalari, made us search for it from pillar to post, during a recent trip to Srinagar in Kashmir. It seemed the new generation of Kashmir has forgotten or not been exposed to Kalari.


Disappointed but adamant to find Kalari, we extended the search beyond Srinagar, while driving to the remote region of Zanskar. We stopped at the tented habitat of the nomadic Bakarwal tribes of Pir Panjal range, who are mainly goatherds. Bakarwal is derived from the Gojri/Urdu/Punjabi/Kashmiri/Dogri terms, “bakra“, meaning goat, and “wal” meaning “one who takes care of”. They are basically the high altitude goatherds.


Bakarwals are fascinating people, who move with changing snowlines. In summers they make their tented homes at the high altitudes and recede during the winters. Being a Punjabi speaker, I found it pleasing that Bakarwals spoke “Pahari“, a dialect very close to “Punjabi” language. Striking a linguistic chord, I was able to freely photograph them in their habitat. While I cherished the moments spent with Bakarwals at these high altitudes but I remained disappointed that they did not carry any stock of Kalari.


In the eight day journey from Srinagar to the remote region of Zanskar and back, Kalari remained elusive. As we prepared to leave Srinagar, having given up our search for Kalari, on the last day, during a walk over the bridge at Amirakadal market, we had a chance spotting of a man who was carrying a few pancakes of Kalari. It seemed God had heard us and wished our palette to revisit the childhood memory lane.


That evening we feasted on Kalari.


In search for Kalari, I achieved a lot more. The experience with Bakarwal nomad tribes of the Pir Panjal range will remain unforgettable.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

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Photo : Bakarwal tribe of Pir Panjal range.

43 Comments

  1. Kulveer Singh

    Amardeep, this is one of the best photo essays I have ever seen. Such beautiful pictures. I take a now to your art, and to your dedication to your art.

  2. jasmeet

    The majestic pir panjals and great photos of the bakarwals.awesome…..but after reading and salivating about the kalari I was expecting its picture too!!!

  3. Ranjit Singh

    My My I am at loss of words to describe my emotions upon seeing these photos n glad to note that u r back to ur den after a wonderful trip. God Bless u n ur family. Guru Raakha n Guru Fateh.
    Ranjitsingh

  4. Meenu Kochhar

    The pictures are saying more than words, especially the eyes. The bright color cloths against the gray background stand out so beautifully. Just looking at the pictures bring a different of calmness. Can I join you on your next trip ???? PLEASE !!!!

  5. Harbans Singh Khakh

    Rugged terrain and beautiful people! Wish was there!

  6. Jasmeet Kaur

    I had seen a video on kilaris a few months ago. They were available in a place called patnitop. Your search for the food left you satisfied and enriched! Great pics!

  7. Sumeet Singh

    Fascinating…

  8. Pratap SJB Rana

    You excell sir!

  9. Birinder Singh

    Kashmiris proper do not usually eat kalaris and know little about them. Amardeep Singh is right in saying that kalari is a kind of Mozarella made from buffalo milk. behaving the same way when cooked and tasting the same. Kalari is actually a product of Dodhi Gujjars in the mountainous tract around Kashmir, not the Bakarwals whose wealth is measured by their stock of goats, some of which can be as big as a small pony.
    Kalaris are available in Pahalgam and the Sindh valley when Gujjar migrate up in summer. They can be had the year round in the Jammu hills upwards of Udhampur upto Kud. Pahalgam kalaris are usually flatter and thinner, roti like you might say, whereas the Jammu kalaris are the size of a kachauri and similar in shape. You can also buy them in Jammu in select shops. Dogras have a better idea of how to cook them than Kashmiris. My Kashmiri cooks had to be taught how to do it.

  10. Bali Kamalendu

    amazing !

  11. Anju

    I remember having had smith like that at Udhampur ,where Dad was posted.

  12. Ritu Uppal Sahney

    Awesome shots!

  13. Pradeep K Sharma

    Amazing pics as usual ! Incidentally, we process a cake of paneer the same way as you prepare Kalari and then use it for making matar-paneer or eat it raw with some rock salt sprinkled over it.

  14. Yoginder Sharma

    Fond memories- kalaris- Paharis-Muzaffarabadis!

  15. Dhruv Jolly

    Dear Amardeep,

    This was absolutely Beautiful. This morning I cried with my first pint of Oolong. Memories of my Grandmother, Her Cooking , the smells in her kitchen, Flavours,memories hard to replace or replicate … and beautiful memories just came back in a flood. The simplicity and the beauty of their lives, The inherent happiness in Nothingness, Happiness in the Harshness of their lives … is absolutely beautiful. The looks on their faces … of absolutely genuine Happiness with a tinge of Sadness … Brilliant … Tears are beginning to well up again … These words of the Buddha Help me understand their blissfulness better and your Images the words of the Buddha Better … Vice Versa … 🙂 … Brilliant work …

    Sukhā virāgatā loke,
    Kāmānaṃ samatikkamo;
    Asmimānassa yo vinayo —
    etaṃ ve paramaṃ sukhaṃ.

    Blissful is passionlessness in the world,
    The overcoming of sensual desires;
    But the abolition of the conceit I am —
    That is truly the supreme bliss.

    Udāna 2.11

    The People Immortalized by you have achieved these qualities … and am still searching … And yes the elderly gentleman with the Child on his back … has started to look like his goats, and his eyes have that mischievous look of his wards …

    Once again beautiful and Brilliant work …. _/\_ …

    Dhruv

  16. Lalit Charak

    Beautiful pix Amar….On d way to Srinagar from Jammu, one can find kalaris from Udhampur to Patnitop areas….some of d shops r famous for kalari only.

  17. Wonderful naration and enchanting pictures of the Kashmiri Hill tribes.It is interesting to note that you followed your palatte for Kalari and in doing so found a world of interesting people and sharing the information with friends.The responses are equally interesting,I read them all.Good luck and good going!!!

  18. Mohindra Chadha

    Dear Amardeep,

    What an amazing response to a very well deserved adulation of your superbly beautiful pictures and prose and that too on the very same day of posting these!!Some of the faces in the photographs are divine!

    No doubt, you are a gifted photographer and narrator and it has been a privilege that you share your creations with well wishers like me!

    Chadha uncle.

  19. amarjeet kaur

    Pictures and literature both influenced me and refreshed the memories of our food in Gorakhpur.

  20. Gurpreet singh

    The pictures are so real and beautifully taken that these are making me nostalgic. Kalaris take me down the time and refreshed my memories of the times when I used to go for the treks to gangabal (mahadev mountain range ) around kashmir. Kalaris used to be a very good and important source of nutrition.. we used to get from the bakarwals and gujars that used to stay very close to the HIghers camps.
    I think I would also like to see the picture of kalari…

  21. Darvinder

    Best Kalari is from Ramnagar area. And easily available in Udhampur and Jammu. Infact in Jammu it is common in eat street , walking distance from my place. Should have dropped in

  22. Rohit

    Nice! Good to see you back again with yr passion!

  23. Amarjit

    I LOVE KILARIS. NICE CLICK.

  24. Surupa Chatterjee

    Just when we thought we were missing your stunning posts , out you pop in and give us, your fans, a visual feast and a charming story…..I always maintained food binds and here your trail of the humble kalari led you to a wonderful tribe , their hospitality and of curse the nature that nestles there…..Thank you…. Eid Mubarak

  25. kishore jumar biswas

    In search of ” roots ” came these pictures and the text. A journey to ” roots” to find the fragments of gone memories. It is amazing to realize how a ” small ” thing can unleash torrent of memories. Here ” kalari ” is not just a pancake . It is more than that. It is the part of a ‘ tradition ‘. It is the part of ” self “. Our past, our heritage , our memories carry some ” parts’ of our ” self”. When we search for those in fact we search for our lost ” self “.
    Here Amardeep’s search for ” kalari ” is a search for ” Amardeep who once tasted / heard kalari “which is a fragment of his ” self”. When he found it he felt as if he attained a ” totality “. His journey to find the lost fragment of ” self ” was completed.He was in joy. That joy made the picture radiating with ” life “. Life with a ” soul.

  26. rekhi

    Beautiful pictures!

  27. Dipika Sen

    awesome…divine feeling. Missing a view of Kalari 😀

  28. Nice write up and photographs

  29. j.p.singh

    Well done Amardeep ji.Amazing Pic. & very knowledgeable essay on Kalari & Bakarwals.

  30. bikram

    wounderful and amazing

  31. As I reach down into my childhood memories, I seem to recall that the best “Kalharis” were made of cow milk curdled within goat skins and when made into patties, dried on a bed of lichen under deodar trees….Now that was an aroma to savor!

  32. mustafa

    Ethereal-the true nomad,YOU!

  33. Jaspal Sehdave

    reading your script – the visuals become alive and relative!

  34. Sundar Ramam

    What an experience this must have been. I felt like i should have been in this trip along with you. This is really outstanding and i am certain that this will be in your memories for years to come.

  35. Pahuja

    Gurfateh ji.
    Viewing your photographs and reading your attached passages always touches my heart.
    Regards.
    May Akalpurkh blessings be on you , always.

  36. Ravinder Sandhu

    Amazing journey. ..Beautiful terrain. ..disarming smiles…the distant look in the eyes of the Bakarwals…a spellbinding experience unfolds as I read your quest for the humle Kalari…the visuals are indeed ethereal !!

  37. hammad nasir

    Amardeep gi, what beauty, not only the pictures but the writing also. wonderful. although I must admit that I never heard about kalari before, but I think there must be some other name of this thing in our Punjab, so many dishes are made from cheese and yogurt.

  38. Surupa Chatterjee

    Again wonderful read and visual journey, my second one again…..Cheers

  39. Manjit Kour

    What a feast for the eyes and the soul. Lovely. I am enthralled by your travels — wish I could join you.

  40. kishore kumar biswas

    I saw these pictures and the notes almost a year ago. and I put my instant feelings on watching it.
    Now when again I have seen it , it seems so new and refreshing . These were photographed with soul so they are ever new for any viewers.
    It is living picture with a speaking note of a soul that was searching the it’s roots.
    Thanks Amarddep. Another example of the excellence of your pictorial story.

  41. adarsh

    its been a while, was missing ur highly informative essays along
    with the ever awesome pictures…always a delight.

  42. Dharini

    Mesmerizing

  43. soma KP

    Beautiful picture scape thank you! please tag for any more stories like these

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